A wadokei, or Japanaese style clock, is a method for telling time used during the Edo period. Below is an example of a wadokei, which is generally illustrated in the shape of a circle, and shows the flow of time sequences according to how a full day would pan out. The top half is shaded a light blue color to indicate nighttime, while the bottom half indicates daytime. The outer ring shows the method for telling time during Edo period, while the inner ring (originally not included) is the modern equivalent, added just as a reference.

During Edo period, the clock measured each day in 12-blocks of time intervals. To read these correctly, 2 counting methods were used:

  1. Zodiac signs, which were identified by their animal variants
  2. Day & night numbering which circulated between the numbers 4 to 9


The Zodiac signs represent each time interval, in the exact same order as they are used in the Zodiac calendar. However, the day & night numbers progressed in an unusual way. From midnight to late morning/early afternoon the time intervals count down from 9 all the to 4. Then, from midday all the way to the earlier part of the night they once again count down from 9 to 4. Basically, the numbers in the range of 4 to 9 are used twice in one daily cycle. Here’s a breakdown of how this works with the progression of both the day and night.

  • The 9th time intervals represent the midpoints in both the day and the night, which are considered to be around midday and midnight.
  • The 8th time intervals occur around the late half of both afternoon and night.
  • The 7th time intervals occur during daybreak and early evening.
  • The 6th time intervals occur both in the morning and evening. To be more specific, these take place around dawn and sunset respectively.
  • The 5th time intervals represent the periods during the morning, and late evening. To be specific, these periods are during the morning after sunrise, and late evening after sunset respectively.
  • The 4th time intervals occur during the earlier part of the afternoon right before midday, and the earlier part of the night right before midnight.

Since these numbers occur twice, the use of the Zodiac signs help to identify which numerical time it is. This is useful especially when setting up a time in advance for an important task, meeting, work, and so on.


Here’s how to read each 12-time interval blocks. Note that the modern-day time range is also included in order to help with how to read the Edo-style clock as shown in the image.

#1 子 (NE /NEZUMI)
ZODIAC = Mouse
TIME (EDO) = Midnight in the 9th time interval
TIME RANGE (MODERN) = 11:00 pm ~ 1:00 am / 23:00 pm ~ 1:00 am

#2 丑 (USHI)
TIME (EDO) = Night in the 8th time interval
TIME RANGE (MODERN) = 1:00 am ~ 3:00 am

#3 寅 (TORA)
ZODIAC = Tiger
TIME (EDO) = Daybreak in the 7th time interval
TIME RANGE (MODERN) = 3:00 am ~ 5:00 am

#4 卯 (U / USAGI)
ZODIAC = Rabbit
TIME (EDO) = Dawn in the 6th time interval
TIME RANGE (MODERN) = 5:00 am ~ 7:00 am

#5 辰 (TATSU)
ZODIAC = Dragon
TIME (EDO) = Morning in the 5th time interval
TIME RANGE (MODERN) = 7:00 am ~ 9:00 am

#6 巳 (MI / HEBI)
ZODIAC = Snake
TIME (EDO) = Afternoon (early) in the 5th time interval
TIME RANGE (MODERN) = 9:00 am ~ 11:00 am

#7 午 (UMA)
ZODIAC = Horse
TIME (EDO) = Midday in the 9th time interval
TIME RANGE (MODERN) = 11:00 am ~ 1:00 pm / 11:00 am ~ 13:00 pm

#8 未 (HITSUJI)
ZODIAC = Sheep
TIME (EDO) = Afternoon in the 8th time interval
TIME RANGE (MODERN) = 1:00 pm ~ 3:00 pm / 13:00 pm ~ 15:00 pm

#9 申 (SARU)
ZODIAC = Monkey
TIME (EDO) = Evening (early) in the 7th time interval
TIME RANGE (MODERN) = 3:00 pm ~ 5:00 pm / 15:00 pm ~ 17:00 pm

#10 酉 (TORI)
ZODIAC = Rooster
TIME (EDO) = Sunset in the 6th time interval
TIME RANGE (MODERN) = 5:00 pm ~ 7:00 pm / 17:00 pm ~ 19:00 pm

#11 戌 (INU)
TIME (EDO) = Night in the 5th time interval
TIME RANGE (MODERN) = 7:00 pm ~ 9:00 pm / 19:00 pm ~ 21:00 pm

#12 亥 (I / INUSHISHI)
TIME (EDO) = Night in the 4th time interval
TIME RANGE (MODERN) = 9:00 pm ~ 11:00 pm / 21:00 pm ~ 23:00 pm

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